Discussion 21 William James on Truth

William James.

William James. Photo on Britannica.

In my opinion, an object has a truth value when one places the object in practical use. For instance, people know that a pen is used for writing. Therefore, one can say that it is true a pen is used for writing. When one uses a pen for writing, and the pen writes, then the truth would have been established, that indeed, a pen is used for writing. However, when a pen fails to write, then it is false that a pen is used for writing. In other words, an object has a truth value when the experience of using the object confirms the knowledge about the object. When the experience of using the object is different from the knowledge about the object, then the object does not have a truth value. Therefore, the truth value of an object lies in the usage.

For William James, any object has a truth value when placed in its context. William James says, “To know an object is to lead it through a context which the world provides.” (35). James means that for one to know the truth value of an object, an individual should place the object in the use value. James used the pragmatic method to establish the meaning of anything. For instance, James uses the example of the notion of God from the Hegelian perspective. The Hegelians believe that God is all-encompassing Absolute Spirit. To establish the truth about the Hegelian perspective of God, James uses the pragmatic method to determine the practical consequences of the belief, that is, the consequences to anyone who believes. James states that the belief brings about comfort and optimism about everything that happens. Conversely, James argues that such belief undermines individual freedom and responsibility. This means that a person may not be held responsible for the occurrence of an event because something is beyond his or her ability. By use of the pragmatic method, James rejected the Hegelian notion and upheld that everyone should be responsible for his or her actions.  Furthermore, James provides three dimensions upon which reality and truth must conform; fact, relationships of ideas, and the consideration of other sets of truths. I agree with James’s view that to determine the truth value of an object; one should place the object in the context. According to James, the practical use of an object helps in determining the object’s truth value.

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